One thing to remember is never underestimate Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. The winningest coach in the state of Utah showed why on Friday night inside the Burns Arena.
Hunter Schofield had 29 points to lead Dixie State to an 83-76 win over in-state foe Southern Utah. Cam Gooden finished with 10 points and nine assists. Frank Staine Jr. and Trevon Allfrey were also in double figures for the Trailblazers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
To be honest, there wasn’t a ton of drama in this one. Dixie State used an 11-0 run late in the first half to push its lead to 12 and never really looked back. The Trailblazers led 47-30 at the break.
Southern Utah cut the lead to nine on a pair of Tevian Jones free throws. But Dixie State had an answer. Schofield hit a layup and Cam Gooden followed that up with a layup of his own to push the lead back to 13 with 13:31 to play.
Harrison Butler pulled the Thunderbirds within seven on a 3-pointer with 12:04 to play. But again, Dixie State answered. A 6-0 spurt pushed the lead back to 13 with 9:50 to play.
Dre Marin, John Knight III and Tevian Jones tried to keep Southern Utah in the game. But again, every punch they threw, Dixie State answered with a haymaker. Marin hit a 3-pointer with 6:39 to play to cut the deficit to eight. But Brock Gilbert hit a driving layup to push it back to 10.
A pair of John Knight III free throws with 5:27 to play cut the deficit to five. And Miazen Fausett hit a layup that cut it to three with 3:47 to play. But Isaiah Pope had an answer and perhaps hit the shot of the game. Pope nailed a corner 3-pointer to push the lead back to six with 3:33 to play. And the Trailblazers held on for dear life down the stretch thanks to key free throws from Pope and Gooden.
Knight III finished with 20 points to lead the Thunderbirds. Dre Marin had 19 points and was 5-8 from 3-point range.
For those that don’t know, this is a massive non-conference win for the Trailblazers and the WAC. Southern Utah came in with a KenPom ranking of 117. Dixie State was sub-300. Southern Utah was chosen as the preseason favorite to win the Big Sky Conference after winning the Big Sky regular season crown in 2020-21. Dixie State was a 12.5-point underdog coming into this contest.
Never underestimate Jon Judkins. Again, it is why he is the winningest coach in the state of Utah.
These two teams will play again this season. Dixie State will travel up I-15 to play at Southern Utah on Dec. 22.
Dixie State improves to 1-1 while Southern Utah drops to 1-1.